“EAT,” the Sophomore Album from Austin Rapper D.R.O.

In contrast to the album’s technical refinement, its subject matter—an artist’s struggle against complacency—is raw.

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In contrast to the album’s technical refinement, its subject matter—an artist’s struggle against complacency—is raw.

Reviewing Austin Rapper D.R.O.'s "EAT"

“EAT” by D.R.O.

Austin rapper D.R.O. recently released his sophomore album under the Sydney-based Fifty Records.

By Molly Burke, University of Texas at Austin

Titled EAT, D.R.O.’s second work offers another take on the prismatic production talent we heard in his 2015 EP, and explores the life of an up-and-coming artist through the analogy of human consumption.

This he accomplishes through clever titles like “Appetition, Cessation” and repeated sampling of the eating noises that constitute the instrumental first track.

Amid undulating, dreamy beats and a moody ambiance, D.R.O.’s verses chew through an emotional spectrum that spans frustration, indignation, independence and hope; he ranges from self-assured bravado to calculated condemnation and existential reflection, and finally, driven determination. D.R.O. serves us a plate of his “meditation food” and invites us to dig in.

Indeed, the production often demands more attention than the verses; varyingly soothing and dark, they cannily capture the complex sentiments behind the raps. D.R.O.’s clear penchant for introspection and psychedelia elicits the irresistible comparisons to A$AP Rocky and 2009 Kid Cudi.

But while “Man on the Moon” tends toward bouncing space-age vibes, D.R.O.’s beats boast an ethereally retro flavor more in the vein of A$AP. That said, he certainly offers his own brand of surreal mixing.

The individual tracks seem to experiment with different styles and speeds, reinforcing D.R.O.’s depth and versatility, but the consistently surreal production lends the album an unmistakable cohesiveness.

With urgent whispers of “It’s time to eat,” we wake up to “Sesame,” the album’s aggressive, defiant condemnation of complacency and reliance upon authority. D.R.O. and Detroit-based rapper Leaf Erickson dismiss the ephemerality of materialism, referencing American racism and a “corrosive” rap industry.

“Norco with Tap” goes deeper, commenting on the monotony of life as a struggling musician.

It’s the album’s strongest application of the consumption theme, as it offers its deepest interpretation: an artist’s voracious self-doubt dueling his relentless hunger for success.

Channeling the maddening ache of an opioid comedown, D.R.O. discusses the inevitable fear and exhaustion involved in being a yet-unknown artist over a syrupy, morose beat.

The song reveals his impression of a career outside of music as no better than “cleaning windows,” a trapped existence characterized by wasted potential and financial insolvency, though he understands clearly the grind ahead of him should his dreams eventually become reality.

Ultimately, motivated by pride and a craving for financial and artistic independence, he dismisses a life of disappointment in favor of a personal version of success, urging the listener to do the same.  

The repeated sentiment ushers us into “Do You(?)” and “Appetition/Cessation,” wherein D.R.O. elaborates on his commitment to being “divinely” himself and resistance to making “whack, irrelevant rap.”

The album ends on a palpably upbeat note with “Brighter Day,” the third strictly instrumental piece. The swirling keyboards suggest an essentially optimistic, if wary, foundation for D.R.O.’S overall artistic structure. The sound fades into an echoing high note, an allusion to the dogged optimism that seems to drive the young rapper.

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